NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The number of coronavirus patients on Long Island continues to mount, and it’s testing nurses and doctors like never before.
On Monday, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff got an exclusive look at the front lines inside Long Island Jewish Hospital.
How are front-line nurses and doctors handling the overload of patients? Gusoff spoke to emergency room nurse Ross Feinman to get a better understanding of what his 12-hour shift is like.
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Feinman is a front-line fighter in a battle he says does not follow the rules he was trained in.
“I feel like we are practicing medicine in the 1800s, because we don’t know enough about this virus. It is like shooting a BB gun at a tank,” Feinman said.
The ambulance bay of the hospital is now a triage area.
“We have ambulances from Chicago helping us out. Big thanks to them too. We need them,” Feinman said.
Part of LIJ’s lobby is tented for COVID-19 patients, amid the hum of what he calls, “the bug zapper.”
“It’s a UV light that’s used to sanitize the rooms in between patients,” Feinman said.
And overhead is heard the constant call for a rapid response.
“This is what we hear every 10 minutes, ‘medical rapid response.’ The patients that are crashing on the floors, requiring breathing tubes. Unfortunately, soon you’ll hear ‘code blue,’ which is the same patient no longer with us,” Feinman said.
“It has been five minutes since the last one,” he added.
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The treatment is often not much more than oxygen and turning patients on their stomach to ease breathing and, “Basically what we try to do is break up the mucus and all the secretions the patients have.”
“As much as we want to say we are trained for this, I don’t think we can ever say we are trained for a pandemic. We’re not trained for people not quarantining. We’re not trained for people not social distancing, but no one here has ever seen anything like this,” ER physician Dr. Eugene Vortsman said.
“We see these patients deteriorate in front of our eyes. Some of them are young and do very poorly. Some of them are old and do great. These patients are sometimes doing well and an hour later they have a breathing tube,” Feinman said.
But for nurses like Feinman, it’s letting patients know they are not alone.
“It is very hard for us, because a lot of times we are acting as that surrogate to hold their hand or to tell them it’s going to be okay when they’re terrified, and they are terrified. And, thankfully, a lot of these patients, they do okay. They turn around,” Feinman said.
Risking his own health, Feinman has this request:
“We can’t say it enough, people have to stay home,” he said. “I’ll do my job as long as you do your job in the public.”
On a positive note, Feinman said he and his colleagues are well fed and appreciate the outpouring from the community, nourishing caregivers’ body and soul.